When the last Tom Cruise movie was out, I wrote about how his recent movies required little acting. That continues with Top Gun: Maverick shifting Cruise from stuntman to an icon. At 56 years old, there’s a reluctance to put Cruise on the same level as his co-stars in case they outshine him. There are two moments here with co-star Miles Teller where that happens. In a film that hews close to the original; it’s nice in the last 20 minutes when they come together to make an actual movie.
That isn’t to say that Top Gun: Maverick is short on good movie moments. The opening Mach 10 test flight is a highlight, as is the final combat mission the film leads up to. The problem with this film is it’s about the teacher when it should be about the students. Maverick has a lot to teach, but little to learn other than not to repeat his past mistakes. This makes him a great mentor who does not need to be the lead character. The film is high on compelling characters. Among them are Rooster (Teller), Phoenix (Monica Barbaro) and standout Hangman (Glen Powell).
Other young blood fills out the cast. In their mid-thirties to the audience’s delight. It makes Tom look not quite as old, and not as jarring an age difference as it was for another Tom in Uncharted. These characters are fully-formed and only need a scene to be notable. The call signs also help. The presentation in my non-IMAX theatre at Landmark Cinemas was top-notch. Sound and image fidelity is on par with Toronto International Film Festival standards. A $10.16 Tuesday deal for a $170 Million film is well worth the trip to cinemas despite my father and mine COVID concerns. Tom took note of our first theatre trip since Covid began and with a pre-film message thanking us for our trip. As receipts indicated 55% of ticket buyers for its record opening were 40 and over.
Former At The Movies host A.O. Scott put it best in his review. Top Gun Maverick is an earnest statement of the thesis that movies can and should be great. That used to go without saying. Following 2+ years of ripoffs, this last pre-covid movie is the real meal audiences deserve.